We chat to Bristol-based artist Elisabet Prieto Orellana about her intricate pocket-sized paintings and the Bristol landmarks that inspire her

Since 2014, Elisabet Prieto Orellana has been creating tiny masterpieces; miniature paintings on canvas that celebrate her love of our vibrant city. Today Eli takes requests, often creating detailed replicas of precious photos and memories that people commission from her. We caught up with her to find out more…

How long have you been painting for?

I have been painting since I was little. I used to spend many hours painting and drawing everything around me. I started to have lessons when I was around 10 years old and then I decided to study in higher education. I did A levels in art and a Fine Arts degree.

When did you first start painting miniature paintings?

I started in 2014; before that I used to do big canvases and printing as well.

“…for me painting is a way of telling a story, like a diary…the places that I have been, where I live now and a lot of other experiences…”

What is your inspiration?

When I was a child I use to paint everything in my life; a day in the countryside with my family, the cover of my favourite book, the cartoons on the TV…everything ended up on a piece of paper, and I still have a lot of them. So basically for me painting is a way of telling a story, like a diary. With my mini canvases I painted my story, the places that I have been, where I live now and a lot of other experiences; I have a lot of personal ones. Now, I paint the story of people who request one of my paintings – sometimes they tell me the meaning and sometimes I just imagine.

Elisabet Prieto Orellana

What gave you the idea to paint in miniature?

The circumstances in my life gave me inspiration. I moved to England 2012, and whilst sharing houses for 4 years with around 5 people, I didn’t have the money or space to paint or store canvases – so I didn’t paint for a year. Then I met someone who gave me the support I needed to not give up my passion – he  ended up being my partner and now supports me with a lot of materials. In that moment I started a project called “Everything in Luggage”, telling my story and that of many people like me; moving abroad, arriving with just one suitcase and starting a new life.

Also, I needed to fit all my work in a suitcase, because I was moving houses all the time, so it needed to be easy to store and carry. My partner went to a shop, saw one of the mini canvases and asked me to paint something for him as a challenge. I am sure he thought I would not be capable of painting much but I did – he was impressed and so was I! 

This sorted out my problem. I could paint a lot of them in my room, I didn’t need a huge space, I could afford it and could keep painting. Since then, whatever happens in my life is recreated in a little painting. I still don’t have a studio, just a small desk next to my baby’s cot, because I don’t really need any more.

“Bristol is just so creative, it inspires me with each step I take around the city…”

How long have you lived in Bristol and what is your favourite thing about living here?

I have been living here since 2012, having moved from my small hometown in Spain. Bristol is just so creative, it inspires me with each step I take around the city. I fell in love as soon as I moved here. I love the architecture of its buildings, the people and the incredible non-stop festivals during summer time. It is such a vibrant city.

Which of your Bristol landmark paintings do you like best?

I think the Castle Park one, it is one of the first places I visited in the city. I painted it with a lot of care, and it makes me think how much everything has changed since that day – and I think that it is one of my best ones too!

Elisabet Prieto Orellana

Any Bristol landmarks you would like to paint?

One of my favourite views is from the M-shed museum, with the Arnolfini and St Mary Redcliffe on the right, the colourful houses and boats on the left and Cabot tower and Memorial building in the background. I don’t think I can fit it all on my mini canvases, but I will give it a go one day.

Are you always open to requests?

Yes, I like challenges. I had never painted animals before until people started to ask me to do it, so I am always open to suggestions. Due to the small size I give advice if something is not going to look good, but I always find a solution.

Commissions for miniature paintings start at £10, and Eli accepts requests for larger paintings at an extra charge. To find our more visit facebook.com/pocketsizepaintings